Biomarkers in cervical screening: quantitative reverse transcriptase PCR analysis of P16INK4a expression
Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
European journal of cancer prevention. - Oxford
, p. 35-41
University of Antwerp
Molecular insights into the human papillomavirus (HPV)-induced cervical carcinogenesis led to the discovery of biomarkers for cervical disease. The detection of cellular proteins that are overexpressed by HPV-infected cells, such as tumor suppressor protein p16INK4a, might play an important role in future cervical cancer screening strategies. P16INK4a immunostaining correlates with the severity of cytological and histological abnormalities, but shows some methodological shortcomings such as the lack of standardized methodology and interobserver variability. This study evaluated quantitative reverse transcriptase PCR (RT-PCR) as an alternative tool to analyze p16INK4a overexpression as a biomarker for transforming HPV-infections in a liquid-based cervical cytology (LBC) setting. Sixty LBC samples, divided in three groups based on their cytological diagnosis, were subjected to HPV typing and analysis of p16INK4a expression by immunocytochemistry and RT-PCR. The analytical sensitivity of the RT-PCR was determined by spiking HeLa and HaCaT cells. P16INK4a expression measured by RT-PCR did not correlate with the cytological diagnosis or HPV status (HPV-positivity, infection type and HPV16-positivity). The spiking experiment proved that, to detect increased biomarker expression by RT-PCR, about 1.0% dysplastic cells is required within a pool of normal keratinocytes. In conclusion, RT-PCR analysis of biomarker expression is not appropriate for cervical screening purposes. In typical LBC samples, the biomarker transcripts of the dysplastic cells are diluted by the RNA of the normal cells in such a manner that their overexpression cannot be detected by RT-PCR.